By Van Smith
Published by City Paper, July 22, 2010
Back in 1991, when he was 39 years old, Walter Louis Ingram got away with murder, and it wasn’t the first time.
Along with co-defendant Kenneth Antonio Jackson, a politically connected Baltimore strip-club owner with his own dark past in the drug game, Ingram was acquitted of murder charges by a New York jury. The case against them—they were accused of the 1984 killing of cocaine wholesaler Felix Gonzalez—was defended by legendary attorney Robert Simels, who arranged for the victim’s family to testify against the government.
The 1991 acquittal was a stunning victory for Ingram—though not uncommon in his then-20-year history of court battles. By that time, according to media accounts, Ingram had already flouted prosecutors’ attempts to convict him for three murders, two attempted murders, two drug conspiracies, two armed robberies, and two cases of assaulting police. But not long after the New York case, prosecutors finally succeeding in nailing Ingram: In December 1992, he received a 210-month sentence in federal court for his part in a major cocaine conspiracy. He was released, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, on July 10, 2007.
(Earlier this year, Simels was sentenced to 14 years in prison for witness intimidation; he still owns a downtown Baltimore condo with Jackson’s mother, Rosalie Jackson. Kenneth Jackson, meanwhile, not only still runs the Eldorado Lounge on East Lombard Street, but also is a film producer and director, putting out a series of docu-dramas that purportedly give the real facts behind stories told in HBO’s The Wire.)
Though getting up in years, Ingram apparently still has game. Yesterday, yet another federal indictment was unsealed against Ingram, along with eight other defendants, accusing them of conspiring to deal heroin since 2009. Ingram is now 59, and his co-defendants aren’t much younger. The indictment is skeletal—it merely says they are accused of dealing at least a kilogram of heroin since 2009—so it remains to be seen, as the case against them progresses, what exactly Ingram and his cohorts are accused of doing.
By Van Smith
Published in City Paper, Apr. 16, 2010
At first glance, 41-year-old Kimberly McIntosh cuts a sympathetic profile as a working single mom. She has four children between the ages of 12 and 20 who live at home with her at 1120 Homewood Ave., a few blocks south of Baltimore’s Green Mount Cemetery. She has a job at Total Health Care, on Division Street in West Baltimore. She has no criminal record, and though she admits to some casual pot smoking, she does not do hard drugs.
But according to assistant U.S. attorney James Wallner, McIntosh is a stone-cold gangster who has been “at the epicenter of a substantial sector of criminal activity in Baltimore” on behalf of the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison gang. Wallner contends that her home serves as a sort of BGF clubhouse, where large meetings are held and gang members mix up drugs for sale, and that McIntosh is the gang’s financial manager, violence coordinator, and overseer of its heroin-distribution activities.
McIntosh was arrested, along with 12 others, on Monday, Apr. 12, for running the BGF’s operations on the streets of Baltimore, which allegedly involve drug-dealing, violence, and extortion. Some of those arrested held down legitimate jobs—including as anti-gang outreach workers for the Baltimore nonprofit Communities Organized to Improve Life.
On Thursday, Apr. 15, McIntosh’s contradictory appearances were on display before U.S. District Court magistrate judge Susan Gauvey, as Wallner and McIntosh’s attorney, Marc Hall, argued over whether or not McIntosh should be detained in prison pending a trial in the case, which is likely to be a long way off.
Wallner did most of the speaking, unloading information about McIntosh that federal investigators included in a 164-page affidavit in the case—as well as details not included in the affidavit and fresh insights gleaned from statements McIntosh made to the agents who arrested her.
McIntosh, whose name appears 365 times in the lengthy search-warrant affidavit, looms large in the case–so large that Wallner had a hard time knowing where to begin in summarizing her alleged involvement with the BGF. To add “flavor” to her role, he started out by describing aspects of McIntosh’s conversations with a cooperator in the case, who wore a body wire while with McIntosh, that did not make into the affidavit.
“The source states, `People don’t realize how gangster you are,'” Wallner said. “And McIntosh says, `But he knows,'” referring to Asia “Noodles” Carter, whose was shot to death in Charles Village on March 15. “She was referencing her ability to exact justice, if you will, on behalf of the BGF,” Wallner said.
At another point, Wallner said McIntosh discussed with the source a BGF member known as “Loonie,” saying “he ain’t supposed to even be breathing right now,” and added that she’s going to pay him “a nice little visit again.” The affidavit doesn’t refer to this conversation, but it does list a BGF member with that nickname, revealing his real name as Robert Loney. A man with that name, who was indicted for drug dealing in Baltimore County last fall, is currently being sought under a warrant for failing to appear for trial in early March, according to state court records.
Judge Gauvey asked Wallner whether James “Johnny Five” Harris is still alive, since the affidavit reveals that his murder had been ordered by the BGF with McIntosh’s knowledge. Wallner responded that he is currently being detained in jail after his arrest on an outstanding warrant.
When members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Investigations Group raided McIntosh’s home on Apr. 12, Wallner explained, they turned up “at least 18 gelatin capsules of heroin,” as well as BGF paperwork and other records, a police scanner, and copies of The Black Book, a self-improvement guide published by imprisoned BGF leader Eric Brown, who was among 25 alleged BGF members indicted last year in federal court.
At McIntosh’s desk at her Total Health Care job, Wallner continued, they found more BGF documents—and a set of “Second Chance body armor.” As further evidence that McIntosh is prepared for violence, the prosecutor recounted details of an incident alluded to in the affidavit, in which McIntosh, in an attempt to intimidate people, was seen brandishing a large firearm outside of her house.
After McIntosh’s arrest at her home, she was “compliant” with the DEA SIG agents who conducted the raid, Wallner said, answering questions at length after she was read her Miranda rights. She told them she anticipated “more charges” after last year’s indictments, but “she figured it would be RICO,” Wallner stated, an acronym for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization law.
McIntosh told the arresting agents that “high-level members” of the BGF “are threatened by her because she is a female and speaks her mind,” Wallner said. In particular, she told them that Ray Olivis, a co-defendant in last year’s BGF indictments, “began causing her problems” by “spreading rumors” that she had stolen BGF funds.
Olivis was key to BGF’s founding in Maryland. The affidavit states that he “was authorized to open BGF in the State of Maryland prison system in the mid 1990s by the California factions of BGF after Olivis served a prison sentence in California,” where the gang was founded in the 1960s by inmate George Jackson and others, including James “Doc” Holiday.
While talking to agents, McIntosh provided them with evidence of her ties to nationally prominent BGF figures, Wallner said. She showed them a photo of her with a high-level BGF member known as “Soup Bone,” who is serving time for drug-dealing in connection with 78 kilograms og illegal drugs, and a letter to her from Holiday, who is serving a life sentence in Colorado. She also disclosed that “I know I’ve been causing problems in the West Coast, a reference to the BGF on the West Coast,” Wallner said.
Wallner also said McIntosh admitted that “there had to be a certain amount of criminality” in order for BGF members to achieve legitimacy, though she expressed dismay that the BGF had “gotten away from the original tenets of founder George Jackson.” As for James “Johnny Five” Harris, she told agents that he’s responsible for eight murders and that “he needs to be got,” but “nobody was going to do it.”
In arguing for McIntosh’s detention pending trial, Wallner called her an “undetectable bomb” should she be released. He expressed concern over possible “retaliation against sources” of the investigation, pointing out that the affidavit includes details about the sources “that are specific enough that many members are going to know who they are.”
Wallner said that BGF’s “paramilitary structure” makes it adaptable to sudden changes in leadership due to law-enforcement crackdowns. McIntosh and her co-defendants, he said, had taken the reins of the BGF’s street operations after last year’s indictments, and the BGF’s reaction to the current indictment has been swift: He told Gauvey that, since the latest arrests, a “kite” had been “found on Greenmount Avenue, telling other members of the BGF to lay low.” A “kite” is a document that gets passed among the gang, communicating decisions and guidance from the leadership.
Hall—who asked Gauvey to put McIntosh on 24-hour lockdown at home with her 20-year-old daughter as legal custodian—characterized the government’s evidence as “compelling” and called the affidavit “very damning,” though he cautioned that he hasn’t yet reviewed the wiretap recordings to look for frailties in the government’s contentions. He emphasized McIntosh’s clean criminal record, and asked the judge to weigh the cost of McIntosh’s incarceration on her children, particularly her eldest daughter, saying she would be placed “in a very difficult spot” having to care for the other children while being the household’s sole bread-winner.
After hearing both sides, Gauvey deemed McIntosh unfit for release. “Eventually your lawyer may say this is all blowing smoke,” Gauvey said, “but at this point it is impossible for us to be assured” that allowing McIntosh to await trail at home would not be dangerous.
After the hearing, McIntosh’s children and others who attended the hearing in her support gathered outside the courtroom. As her son wiped away tears, a woman expressed shock at the outcome: “That woman don’t even have a fucking criminal record—that is crazy.”
By Van Smith
Published by City Paper, May 27, 2009
An overarching presence in the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) prison-gang conspiracies indicted in April by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland is not a person, but a book.
Entitled The Black Book: Empowering Black Families and Communities, the 122-page softbound publication is a revolutionary call for economic and political liberation for blacks. Eric Marcell Brown, a 40-year-old inmate of the Maryland correctional system, is the author of much of its contents, and he, along with his wife, Deitra Davenport (see “Family Portraits,” Mobtown Beat, May 27, 2009), last year incorporated Dee Dat Publishing to get The Black Book printed and distributed for sale.
Brown, Davenport, and 23 other co-defendants named in the two BGF indictments are accused of drug dealing, prison smuggling, violence, and extortion. Prosecutors say The Black Book served as a propaganda tool for gang recruitment while its sales also helped finance the BGF’s criminal activities.
The feds’ assertions about the nefarious functions of The Black Book, though, are considered over-the-top by at least one educator: Tyrone Powers, the director of Anne Arundel County Community College’s Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Institute and an advisory board member of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services’ Thomas J.S. Waxter Children’s Center, a detention facility for young women. A former FBI agent and Maryland State Police trooper, Powers has a Ph.D. in sociology and justice from American University and hosts a radio show called “The Powers Report.”
The back cover of The Black Book has the following endorsement from Powers:
These are difficult days that require concrete, specific, effective solutions. This book provides that and more. If we want to win, to change our condition, our situation and the life chances of this generation, of our children and of our children’s children then we must read, analyze, think, learn and apply the lessons, concepts and practical solutions that are apart [sic] of this extraordinary volume written by four extraordinary insightful men and leaders.
Powers, in a mid-May phone interview, explains that “I met Eric [Brown] by going into the prison system as part of an effort to deal with three or four different gangs. Eric and others decided to put together this book, and it was all positive. I endorsed it because it could have some impact on the increasing gang problem, because people would read and understand this, as opposed to more academic writing that doesn’t connect with young people.
“I am totally unapologetic about endorsing this book and totally unapologetic about meeting Eric Brown,” Powers continues, “because it serves a positive purpose–to reduce the violence. This book is a means to that end. I don’t know anything about the financing end of it, and as for it being used for gang recruitment–I don’t know how it could be used for recruitment. It is all about building peace and tranquility.”
Also endorsing The Black Book on its back cover is former two-time Baltimore City mayoral candidate Andrey Bundley, a Baltimore City Public Schools administrator who oversees the city’s alternative education programs. “Kudos, to Eric Brown (E.B.) for not accepting the unhealthy traditions of street organizations aka gangs,” Bundley wrote. “He has availed his leadership capacity in Jamaa to guide his comrades toward truth, justice, freedom and equality.”
Jamaa, according to The Black Book, is a Swahili word for “family” that is defined as “an organization geared towards revitalizing our people and our hoods.” Brown and Davenport last year formed a non-profit organization called Harambee Jamaa Inc., which, according to its incorporation papers, intends “to education, invigorate and liberate our people from poverty, crime, and prison.”
“I’ve seen [rival gangs] come together in one room and work on the lessons in The Black Book to get themselves together,” Bundley told The Baltimore Sun in early May. “I know Eric Brown was a major player inside the prison doing that work. The quote on the back of the book is only about the work that I witnessed: no more, no less.”
The Black Book, according to its introduction, “is designed to make our people aware of the vision of Comrade George Jackson and the struggle that he lived and died for.” Jackson, a Black Panther Party member, founded the BGF as a Marxist prison gang in 1966, while serving time at San Quentin State Prison in California for an armed robbery conviction. Jackson was shot to death at San Quentin in 1971, in an incident that also left five others dead; Jackson was armed with a pistol when he was killed. At the time, he was awaiting trial on charges that he murdered a prison guard.
The four chapters of The Black Book include study guides and poems venerating a value system that seeks to uplift black communities, including incarcerated people. It invokes revolutionary ideals from the Black Power, Black Liberation, and Black Nationalism movements of the 1960s and melds them with instructions on how to live life. It calls itself a “living policy book,” and includes lessons on civics, economics, and gender roles. The book says, for instance, that a Jamaa woman is to be a “firearm expert,” who has “gun in hand, ready to take on all transgressors.” When a wife is disobedient, The Black Book says the husband first should “verbally reprimand her,” then “refuse to sleep with her,” “beat her lightly,” and “if these are not effective, the next step is divorce.”
During court proceedings in the BGF indictments, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Wallner has claimed that The Black Book generates profits used to underwrite BGF crimes. But Davenport’s defense attorney, Thomas Saunders, has questioned that contention. “There is no profit, considering what printing costs are,” Saunders said, adding that Davenport “used her own money” to get the book published and was not using it as a “front to funnel money” to the BGF.
By Van Smith
Published in City Paper, June 10, 2009
The phone rang at 6:59 a.m. on a Friday morning, just as 53-year-old Baltimore City wastewater plant technician Calvin Renard Robinson was heading for the shower, court records show. The March 20 call was from 46-year-old Kevin Glasscho, an ex-con now accused in Maryland as the Black Guerilla Family (BGF) prison gang’s heroin broker.
“You wanted a whole dollar or the half?” Glasscho asked. “Uh, it don’t matter,” Robinson answered, adding, “You can bring me the, um—bring it to me in two halves.” When Glasscho explained that it would be less work if he gave Robinson the “whole dollar.” Robinson agreed, and the two planned to meet after Robinson got out of the shower.
At the time, neither man knew that this exchange, and similarly cryptic phone calls this past spring between Robinson and Glasscho, was being recorded by law enforcers, who believed the men were using code to arrange drug deals. But in mid-April, the conversations wound up as part the evidence for two federal criminal conspiracy cases against 25 alleged members of the BGF. The gang is accused of a variety of crimes, including violence, drug-dealing, smuggling contraband, and extortion. Robinson, thanks to the intercepted phone conversations with Glasscho and the resulting surveillance, is charged with buying drugs wholesale from Glasscho.
At his first court appearances in April, Robinson had the unassuming look of the workaday bureaucrat he is, with his clean-shaven head, trimmed mustache, and glasses. Robinson’s defense attorney, Steven Wrobel, had on hand Robinson’s city Department of Public Works (DPW) supervisor, Dorothy Harris, ready to testify in support of letting Robinson go free pending trial. But the judge decided that Robinson, who has drug convictions dating from the early 1990s and was found with two handguns and ammunition when he was arrested April 15 in the BGF take-down (“Guerrilla Warfare,” Mobtown Beat, April 22, 2009), poses too much of a risk to public safety should he leave jail.
In addition to the guns—a Smith & Wesson .357 with six cartridges and a North American Arms .22 with four cartridges—court records show agents took from Robinson’s home three cell phones, a Blackberry mobile device, three sets of keys, and numerous photographs.
Robinson has owned his North Mount Street home—1102, right across Riggs Avenue from the Baltimore Police Department’s Western District station house—since 2000. Land records show his principal residence is not there, but south by about a dozen or so blocks, at 1223 Hollins St., a half-block west of Hollins Market. Robinson purchased the Hollins Street property in 2008; open for business there is the In and Out Boutique, the trade name for a clothing shore owned by Robinson’s company, Jo-Cal LLC.
Robinson’s In and Out Boutique opened on a block of Hollins Street that has long been known for drug-dealing activity (“Best Open-Air Drug Market,” Mobtown Beat, Sept. 16, 2003). In 2007 it was targeted in a major federal enforcement effort called Operation Smackdown, which closed down a $20,000 per day heroin operation there.
By Van Smith
Published in City Paper, May 7, 2009
Like other Maryland prison inmates indicted in the Black Guerilla Family prison-gang conspiracy, Eric Marcell Brown hasn’t yet had his first court appearance on the charges, so he remains an unseen player in the case. But the wire-tap investigation of his activities from prison, which resulted in the Apr. 8 grand jury indictment in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, shows how the government views Brown: as the BGF’s top leader in Maryland, orchestrating its violent, corrupting operations with funds from selling drugs and The Black Book, his instructional tome about the BGF movement.
Brown doesn’t consider the BGF a “gang” at all, but an “organization”–a distinction to which The Black Book devotes a full chapter. The book’s 2008 publication put Brown’s abilities on display, revealing a knack for marketing and leadership. The law enforcers who came after Brown say his publishing venture has been successful, noting in court documents that upwards of 900 copies were sold, with proceeds going back to the organization. If so, The Black Book, which prescribes self-generated economic empowerment for blacks, especially ex-offenders, is a good example of what the book seeks to advance.
Yet the book also condemns drug dealing as a form of “genocide” and “chemical warfare,” so if the government is right about Brown, then he’s in direct conflict with his own tenets. The Black Book asserts that Brown, who at 40 years old is 15 years into a 25-year sentence on drug-dealing charges, has undergone a “transition” from his old ways, and encourages others to follow. Court documents filed in the BGF case make a farce of this assertion, but, as the government’s case against Brown is tested in court, a clearer picture may emerge of how he measures up to The Black Book‘s ideals.
According to court documents, one of the government’s informants in the BGF investigation said “The Black Book is a ploy by Brown to make BGF in Maryland appear to be a legitimate organization and not involved in criminal activity.” In fact, the informant explained, “Brown is a drug trafficker” and “BGF funds its operations primarily by selling drugs”-though The Black Book, too, is “making money.”
Brown’s cell-phone conversations were intercepted by investigators for months, and in the process, chatter was picked up that seemed to confirm that Brown was involved in drug dealing, along with violence, armed robbery, smuggling, and extortion. Some of the intercepted discussions, as recounted in the court records, were clear and easily interpreted. Others were vague, relying on investigators’ training and experience to conclude that nefarious doings were afoot.
One of the recorded conversations showcases Brown’s grasp of the rhetoric of radical change. “Listen, man, we are on the verge of very big things, man,” Brown said during a three-way call last November with two other BGF members, who were inmates in different Maryland prisons. “This positive movement that we are embarking upon now, right, is moving at a rapid pace, right. It’s happening on almost every location” in the prison system. “Revolution is the only solution, brother,” he exhorted.
Investigators contend that Brown’s hold on the reins of the BGF took it further, so that it now stands accused of “operating in every, single prison facility in the entire state,” as assistant U.S. attorney James Wallner put it in court in April. What’s more, the movement Brown leads has populist appeal outside of prisons, as suggested by an Apr. 13 meeting in Druid Hill Park, where, according to court documents, about 100 BGF members and supporters gathered as The Black Book and BGF t-shirts were distributed.
By Van Smith
Published in City Paper, May 5, 2009
With the slow gait of the aged, 51-year-old Randolph “Uncle Rudy” Edison shuffles into a federal courtroom in Baltimore on April 22 to face charges that he helped commit violent crimes for the Black Guerilla Family prison gang in Maryland. The wear and tear of a lengthy prison stint he served in the 1990s and early 2000s (with an extra year tacked on in 2000 for assaulting a Department of Corrections employee), appears to have taken its toll on him.
In 2007, Edison was out of jail and back on the streets, and he racked up new charges–loitering, drug possession (including a state case brought in January)–that show him residing in Dundalk, where he’d been living before his 1993 murder sentence was imposed. Edison’s world-weary air in the courtroom reveals little, if any, worry about the future – except, perhaps, when it comes to getting his twice-a-day insulin shots for diabetes, something for his high blood pressure, and a doctor to take a look at the abscess on his hand.
Nonetheless, the feds have evidence portraying Edison as a plugged-in leader of the BGF, working energetically on the outside for imprisoned BGF ringleader Eric Brown.
On March 13, BGF court documents show, Edison and two other BGF co-defendants-52-year-old Zachary Norman and 59-year-old Roosevelt Drummond-were in a car that was pulled over by police in Baltimore City. Drummond had a gun and was arrested; also taken from the car were handcuffs, rubber gloves, and a mask.
Hours later, Brown used a cell phone to call Edison, initiating a conversation that was intercepted by investigators. “We just had some bad luck man,” Edison told Brown, according to court documents. “We was in the car, yeah and they pulled us over, right. You know we gonna do something, but the coon that was setting the whole degree up, he’s the rat. He set all us up.” Edison explained that Drummond had a gun, adding, “Just lucky I ain’t carry that thing,” to which Brown responded, “that’s the last thing you need boy.”
Investigators concluded from this conversation that Edison was reporting to Brown what happened with the police while he and his co-defendants were “en route to commit a drug-related armed robbery,” according to court documents.
Edison had no lawyer for his first appearance in court, but two days later, on April 24, Richard Bittner is appointed to him. After asking around the courtroom for Edison’s sister, who’s not there, and meeting briefly with an older gentleman who says he’s Edison’s friend, Bittner decides not to fight the prosecutor’s request that Edison remain in jail until after the trial. U.S. District Court magistrate judge Beth Gesner orders Edison detained, reminding him that if he chooses, he can later request a hearing over whether or not he can be conditionally released.
By Van Smith
Published in City Paper, May 1, 2013
The litany of evidence the feds have on Baltimore inmate Tavon White and his Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison gang describes a conspiracy of sex, drugs, money, and fancy cars involving a harem of correctional officers (COs) at a jail that White, dubbed a “Bushman” in the BGF hierarchy, believed he ruled. On April 29, White and CO Tiffany Linder pleaded not guilty, with arraignments of the 23 other co-defendants expected in the days and weeks to come.
Not surprisingly, with so many buttons pushed, the media firestorm over subsequent days tossed this narrative into national discussion, where it joined one that was already there: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s potential presidential ambitions.
Prison-corruption stories have been a pretty regular feature of Maryland’s media mill, yet bureaucratic reaction to this one was swift. The national spotlight will do that.
By Friday, three days after allegations of White’s fabulous inmate lifestyle were exposed by the April 23 unsealing of the indictment and search-warrant affidavit in the BGF case, Gary Maynard, secretary of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), moved his office to the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC). He started a top-to-bottom integrity review of his staff, including lie-detector tests, as the Maryland General Assembly pounced, announcing a May 8 hearing and promising to set up a commission on correctional issues.
As the story settled in, with flames being fanned under the O’Malley angle, coverage shifted as the media spotlight panned for context. It was quickly found: White’s story is a virtual repeat of another series of BGF indictments, in 2009 and 2010, involving corruption among COs. What’s more, stories about gang-tied COs facilitating inmate crimes had been a consistent part of the Baltimore media landscape since then, including coverage that unearthed prison-agency documentation of gang-tied COs dating back to 2006. This background only made White’s story more embarrassing for those in charge, since it suggested the long-festering, well-documented problem of CO corruption wasn’t being solved by Maynard and O’Malley.
“I can’t believe that Maynard ignored this,” says a law-enforcement source familiar with the prior federal BGF investigation that ensnared COs. “The people in charge did nothing to change it,” says the veteran agent, who agreed to discuss the case in exchange for anonymity.
Maynard, however, claims some credit for White’s indictment. Though he admitted the situation was “on me” and said he didn’t “make any excuses” at the press conference when the indictment was announced, a few days later Maynard tweaked his tune, saying to the Daily Beast that “we asked for this investigation because we knew this was an issue” and that the feds “bring some power to the investigation, but once that investigation becomes public, people are going to look at it and say, ‘What is going on here?'”
So Maynard had every expectation that DPSCS would look bad, and that’s just part of fixing the problem – a new dynamic for Maynard, who’s accustomed to getting credit and praise as federal prosecutors continued to target CO corruption in recent years.
“I want to commend” Maynard “for his commitment to rooting out crime in his facilities,” Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said at the April 2009 press conference announcing the first round of BGF indictments. A month later, Rosenstein, reporting progress in the case of a CO who helped run an extortion scheme involving contraband cellphones, was again lavish in his praise. “I am grateful to [DPSCS] for combatting contraband cellphones that allow jailed gang members to endanger public safety,” Rosenstein said in a statement, adding that “our ability to prosecute important cases has been enhanced” thanks to “Maynard making it a priority to increase the department’s intelligence capabilities.”
In July 2010, when another CO was indicted in the mushrooming BGF prosecution, bringing to light more details of the depth and breadth of corruption, Maynard promoted the idea that it was evidence of the department’s years-long track record of tackling the problem.
“Today’s indictment shows that developing our intelligence capabilities has become a top priority in the last three years,” he said in the 2010 statement, adding that while “our unprecedented cooperation and intelligence sharing with our local and federal partners has enabled us to root out illegal activities of a few bad apples, 99 percent of our correctional officers and custody staff continue to work hard, maintaining the high levels of integrity and honor standard among our employees.” Maynard also used the occasion to stress that it serves “notice to those employees who would break the law that you will be caught.”
Now it’s nearly three years later, with plenty of intervening news about COs getting caught for corruption, and 13 more are charged for conspiring with the BGF. So does Maynard deserve credit or scorn for the proliferation of corruption cases involving his department? Answers will emerge supporting each contention as this story continues to unfold, pulling public perception this way and that while Maynard’s overseers – O’Malley and the Maryland legislature – try to assess and shape repercussions as facts both newly alleged and already proven continue to inform the debate.
Many proven facts emerged in the 2009/2010 federal cases, showing how DPSCS personnel helped the BGF deal drugs, launder money, engage in extortion, and smuggle contraband into prisons – virtually the same conduct as this month’s indictment. Others come from court records showing that DPSCS, back in 2006 and 2007, had the names of 16 BCDC COs believed to be tied to gangs, and that some helped facilitate prison violence, yet the lieutenant who’d developed the intelligence was ordered to stop writing such reports. These facts emerged in a settled lawsuit brought against one of White’s co-defendants, Antonia Allison, and the fact that she stayed on as CO for seven more years is a measure of the problem’s stubborn fortitude.
More cases emerged – including the one involving Lynae Chapman, a CO who smuggled phones into prison to a BGF member accused of murder who was the father of her unborn child. Yet, despite the mounting evidence that DPSCS had an integrity problem, in 2010 the Maryland General Assembly passed a law giving COs a “Correctional Officer Bill of Rights” (COBR) to invoke when they are accused of wrongdoing. The FBI, in the affidavit against White, invokes the COBR as a factor that worked in favor of White’s “takeover” of BCDC.
The latest BGF charges add 13 more COs to the 15 already charged in another Maryland case being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. While corruption in the White case surrounds the prison system’s black-market economy, the civil rights case has targeted a “culture” of illegal beatings and subsequent cover-ups in Maryland corrections, in which COs and their supervisors allegedly conspired to undermine efforts to prosecute the assaults. This adds to what the law-enforcement source familiar with the 2009-2010 BGF investigation calls a “culture of corruption” among COs that has been obvious in jails and prisons for years. The DPSCS became “so immune to it that they didn’t do anything about it” until now, when it’s suddenly become an urgent public-corruption emergency.
With court documents citing “the power that White and the BGF are granted by staff at all levels” as an “important cause” of the conspiracy and revealing details about a lieutenant who promised White’s heir-apparent as BGF’s ruler at BCDC that he would have the same arrangement that White had-free-flowing contraband in exchange for BGF’s efforts to keep prison violence down-Maynard’s top-down review seems likely to explode the careers of more than the 13 defendants charged.
“The investigation is ugly,” Maynard told the Daily Beast, adding, “it is not the end though-it is the beginning. It is where I start to take action.”
If so, then Tavon White’s emergence as a notorious public figure may have prompted what all that came before it couldn’t: a demonstrable, from-the-top effort to address the widely known and long-documented problem of corruption at Maryland’s prisons.